Can You Access .Onion Sites Without Tor Browser?

by Ciphas

(Note: Thanks to Ben Tasker’s Security Blog for being a reference.)

Can you access .onion sites without the Tor Browser? Short answer? Yes, you can – but I don’t recommend it…I cannot stress this enough.

I’ve mentioned Tor2web proxies in a few previous posts, but didn’t elaborate on it much. onionto

In their own words, “Tor2web is a project to let Internet users access Tor Onion Services without using Tor Browser.” Tor2web and Web2Tor are reverse proxies which allow clearnet users (such as someone using Chrome, Firefox, etc.) to access Tor hidden services.

reverse_proxy

The proxy listens on port 80 (or sometimes 443) on a clearnet server, and then proxies requests to the Tor hidden service.

If you’re unfamiliar with proxy servers, Indiana University gives a great definition of one: What is a proxy server?  (Psst…I talked about this a little in my earlier post ‘Anonymous’ Proxy List?)

The example they use to illustrate on Tor2web.org is that when you see an onion URL, for example, http://pbfcec3cneb4c422.onion/, if you add “.to,” “.link,” “.cab,” etc. to the end of the URL (e.g. http://pbfcec3cneb4c422.onion.to), and that proxy will connect you to the onion service. Great, right?

Well, no – not great. In spite of its convenience, the problem with using these proxies is that whomever is operating the Tor2web proxy can spy on your web traffic. While this may not sound like a bad thing, if said proxy operator has malicious intent, then you (the user) are basically a sitting duck. Plus, if the point of Tor is being anonymous, and someone can detect your web traffic that defeats the whole purpose!

In fact, even onion.cab themselves – the proxy service, that is – warns users when they first try to access a site this way:

onion

If this doesn’t sound bad, then it should be noted that not only can the operator see your web traffic, but they can also modify it and inject code if they so desire.

Ben Tasker Security Blog has an excellent post about this called Don’t Use Web2Tor/Tor2web (especially Onion.cab) – the example he gives is that some Web2Tor services “have some pretty bad habits, including playing fast and loose with your privacy.”

If you visit  https://6zdgh5a5e6zpchdz.onion, but do so through onion.cab instead of through Tor, the proxy service injects piwik analytics code into the page, which looks something like this:

piwik_tracking

So why should you care? Well, the proxy service who injected the code now knows that your IP address accessed said onion service at a specific time. In addition, they’re also executing code on your browser that the operator of the original site is unaware of.

Within the code, some of the information that it can discover about you is:

  • The title of the page you’re viewing
  • An ID for the site
  • The time that you made the request
  • The exact URL you were looking at
  • The page that sent you to that URL
  • Details of which plugins you have installed
  • Whether cookies are enabled
  • Your screen resolution
  • A unique ID for you

Alternately, this third party operator can inject code into the site that may track you across hidden services – that is, if you’re using the onion.cab proxy.

You can even contract malware via some Tor2web proxies – read this article by Virus Bulletin – Vawtrak uses Tor2web to connect to Tor hidden C&C servers. Granted, this article is over two years old, but it can still give you an idea of what might happen if you rely on these proxies.

Thus, if your concern is privacy, it should be obvious why you don’t want to give this information away. The same goes for any proxy, really, but again, if you’re using Tor for anonymity, then accessing so-called “hidden services” via the clearnet is pointless.

I know that a lot of people who explore the “dark web” for fun just say, “Give me links!” But if you want to explore those links, do so in the right way – use the Tor Browser (from https://www.torproject.org/), and don’t try to do so via the clearnet.

There’s a reason it’s called the “dark web,” after all.

creepy_eyes

Are Terrorists Really Using the Dark Web?

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I see this question popping up in the media a lot lately, particularly after there have been several awful terrorist attacks. The answer to it, however, probably depends on whom you ask.

Let me state, for the record, that I do not support terrorism in any way – in fact, I’m a Nichiren Buddhist (with SGI), and one of our main messages is tolerance and peace.

That aside, the article Terrorists and dark web, what is their relationship?, by Security Affairs, says that if they are, it’s not to a large degree (contrary to popular belief). If you read knowledgeable sources with regard to what kind of content is on the dark web, though there may be some terrible things (like child pornography), terrorist groups are one of the things you’d be hard-pressed to find.

What brought this to mind, however, was an article on DeepDotWeb, entitled UK Targets Dark Web Users in Anti-Terrorism Pamphlet. Supposedly, some law enforcement agencies have found a connection between the dark web and terrorist organizations, and if you ask USA Today, that’s what the truth is…

Be that as it may, I think the general problem is the public’s misunderstanding, as a whole, of what the “dark web” is. I’ve addressed this concept many times on this blog, but because a good majority of people don’t understand what the dark web is, or how it works, they tend to assume that it’s just a haven for “bad stuff.” In this case, the “bad stuff” would include terrorism.

I’m not saying that the dark web is free of anything terrible – I’m repulsed by the fact that so much child abuse material is on there, or that there are people who watch “crush videos” of animals being killed. Nonetheless, just because those things exist, it doesn’t mean that every single bad thing you can think of is there – which is another urban legend about it.

What I suggest is – do your research and find out the truth about this statement. You’ll probably hear conflicting ideas, but my belief is that the dark web is not really a haven for terrorists.

Ironically, you’re more likely to find websites of that nature on the clearnet – as hard as that may be to believe.

 

‘Anonymous’ Proxy List?

SPIDERMANLUCK.png

I forget exactly where I found this link – I think it was either Electronic Frontier Foundation or Privacy Tools  – but it’s a list of supposedly anonymous proxy servers, generated by a set of particular search engine terms:

+”:8080″ +”:3128″ +”:80″ filetype:txt

This returns results for lists of proxy servers that use ports 8080, 3128, and 80, which are apparently more anonymous than average proxies.

You’ll get different results if you use different search engines, too:

qwant.com: proxy list

Blackle.com: proxy list

For the curious, here are some of the actual results that you might get as well:

rebro.weebly.com: proxy list

Proxy Spider: short proxy list

kan339: proxy list

lategoodies.tripod.com: proxy list

h3furnitureoutlet: proxy list (yeah, a furniture outlet has a proxy list)

proxy IP list: anonymous

jobabroad.sweb.cz: proxy list

playinator.com: proxy list

Even so, as I mentioned in a few earlier posts, this all depends on whether you trust proxies at all. Which is why I haven’t used any of these, personally.

It’s similar to using a VPN in combination with Tor. Are you really anonymous when doing this? That depends on whether or not you trust your VPN provider! By the same token, it’s very risky to use certain proxies, unless you know what data the proxy server is collecting about you. Never mind the fact that .txt documents can contain malware (just as some PDFs on Tor do). Read Should You Trust Any Proxy? to find out a little more.

Regardless, it’s an interesting experiment to try Googling this, even if you don’t decide to use the proxy services themselves. Most of the sites look like this:

anonymous_proxy

While the idea of “anonymous proxy server” sounds great, in theory, they could be just like malicious Tor exit nodes – intending to steal data or worse.

So yes, these proxies exist. Should you use them? That’s up to you.

Call me paranoid, but personally, I wouldn’t.

 

Discontinued Darknets??

Given that privacy and anonymity are such a hot topic these days, there are many projects that various people and organizations are developing for just that reason. Several of these I’ve already mentioned multiple times, including Tor, I2P, Freenet, and ZeroNet.

Nonetheless, I find the defunct ones to be just as interesting, partly because some of them used different methods for disguising one’s identity. A few that I’ve had a chance to check out are:

  1. Osiris Serverless Portal System
  2. anoNet: Cooperative Chaos
  3. Umbra (by the Shadow Project)
  4. StealthNet

Some of these, in spite of no longer being developed, are still available for download, so you can check them if you’re just curious.

I thought I would give a brief explanation of each of these, and then let you explore on your own, if you wanted to find out more.

Osiris SPS

osiris

Osiris is a program used to create web portals that are distributed via P2P networking, and are not reliant on central servers (hence the name “serverless portal system”). Data on Osiris portals are shared between all participants. According to the Wikipedia article on Osiris, these are some of its key features:

  • The system is anonymous. It is not possible to make an association between a user and their IP address, hence one cannot trace the person who created a content.
  • Even with physical access to an Osiris installation it is impossible to trace the actual user without knowing his password.
  • 2048-bit digital keys guarantee the authenticity of content (digitally signed in order to prevent counterfeiting) and the confidentiality of private messages (encrypted between the sender and recipient).
  • To prevent the ISP from intercepting traffic, connections and data transfer to a portal (called alignment), Osiris uses random ports which are cloaked during handshake and encrypted point-to-point via 256-bit AES.
  • The P2P distribution allows content to be present in multiple copies as a guarantee of survival in case of hardware failure or nodes off-line.
  • As the portals are saved locally, one can read the contents even if one works off-line.

In some ways, Osiris is also like Freenet, in that it uses P2P distribution of content, has a reputations system, and uses cryptographic keys as identifiers.

Now, for those of you looking for creepy and disturbing stuff, I’ve never found any of that on Osiris. That wasn’t really my intention when I started using it. I was exploring other anonymity networks and software that I had yet to use.

The problem with Osiris is that it seems as though it’s no longer being developed, as I mentioned. Still, for the curious who just want to check it out, click the link above.

anoNet

anonet_6

anoNet was a Wide Area Network (WAN) created in 2005. Its creators were a few people who were tired of the surveillance and constant data collection that still takes place on the clearnet today.

As on Freenet or ZeroNet, they wanted it to have functions like social networking, messaging, email, and website publishing, but the ability to do all of these anonymously. The network used OpenVPN, tinc, Quagga, BIRD, and QuickTun. OpenVPN and QuickTun were used to quickly connect nodes to one another, while BIRD and Quagga were used to exchange routing information with others on the network, allowing all peers to connect to each other easily.

What I’m not entirely sure of is if you can still connect to the network at all, since various sources have listed it as defunct. It may be similar to Osiris, in that it isn’t actively being developed, but the software is still available.

Umbra

overview_wallet

Umbra, like Osiris, isn’t really defunct, but it isn’t being actively developed. It was a division of The Shadow Project, the creators of the ShadowCash cryptocurrency.

It could be used for anonymous chat, messaging, email, and hosting websites (much like Freenet or ZeroNet). I haven’t had the chance to use it yet myself, but I would enjoy just playing around with it, if for no other reason than learning…and fun!

StealthNet

stealthnet

StealthNet was an anonymous P2P filesharing network, based on an earlier model, called RShare. Like many other P2P networks, traffic was routed through other nodes in the network, helping to keep users anonymous.

For better or worse, this project, too, has been discontinued. If you’re just curious about it, however, it looks as though you can download the software. It’s unlikely that there will be many (if any) peers to connect to, which kind of defeats the purpose of a P2P network!

Anyhow…

Despite the fact that these networks have been discontinued, I expect that others like them are being developed right now, or will be in the future.

As I always say, if you’re a budding developer, why don’t you create one? It could eventually be something big!

 

Creating a Hidden Network?

Journey_to_the_Dark_Web

One of my readers, with whom I’ve been corresponding on and off, wrote to me with an idea about creating a hidden network from scratch. It may have been inspired by one of my earlier posts, The “Shadow Web” Cited Me? Awesome!

In this post, I speculated about how you could create your own “shadow web,” i.e. a network that offered anonymity, and that you and only a select few people could access. In response, this reader had a few suggestions for such a network (I’m paraphrasing his (or her?) words here):

  1. One in which you could communicate via Telnet or Netcat over the Tor network.
  2. No DNS, no sites, just chats.
  3. Each user has his own list of peers.
  4. No nicknames, just onion domains.
  5. Everything is done manually, to avoid potential security flaws.
  6. Users select someone to chat with from the peer list and connect via TCP socket over Tor.

 

telnet_screenshot_2

This is, more or less, what I had in mind when I described the idea of creating a hidden network, although I had hoped that you could build websites on top of it too. What I’m unsure of, in his description, is what he means by “no nicknames,” as I would think you would need some kind of identifier to use a chat feature.

Even if the names weren’t user-generated, you could have this encrypted chat generate them for you. To use the example of the “nonsense word generators” again, perhaps the program could generate two names like this:

Hokr

Ngwood

It could also generate cryptographic keys for each identity, like:

6U-^QoM&m{z?H]g~c”AX3VgQqzVVo+

VtjHjR00ZCYVvU7Gs2iuWXQd2lX6oPDi

It’s similar to Freenet’s WebOfTrust plugin, which also generates identities for users of the network. In the case of Freenet, you have to solve some puzzles (which are more or less CAPTCHAs) in order to introduce your identity to other users. This is done to prevent bots from “joining” the network.

setup004

Personally, I love this idea, although I’m still in the process of studying some of this, and I might need a little help getting started. Anyone else have ideas to contribute? Feel free!

Hey, sooner or later I may actually have my own darknet! (And of course, I’d have to make it dark and scary.)

curtain

ZeroNet: Continuing Your Dark Webducation!

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I’ve mentioned ZeroNet in a few previous posts, but haven’t gone into much detail about it. I think it has the potential to be a great network, if more people start using it.

It’s a bit different from Tor, in that you don’t have to have a separate browser to access it (although you do need the software). ZeroNet is a decentralized network that uses bitcoin cryptography and the BitTorrent network to create a “separate internet,” if you will.

ZeroNet also uses the Tor network to help users achieve anonymity, though the two are in fact different networks. (Wait…huh?) Yes, in addition to using the BitTorrent network, ZeroNet also has the ability to route traffic through Tor – although you can turn this feature on and off.

If you read its documentation, you can learn a bit more about it.

zeronet_homepage

Author: Kahpecuce Copyright: 2016 Wikimedia Commons

According to the documentation, at present, ZeroNet offers these features:

  • Real-time updated sites
  • Namecoin .bit domain support
  • Multi-user sites
  • Passwordless – Bitcoin’s BIP32-based authorization
  • Built-in SQL server

As with PGP, on ZeroNet you have a public and a private key, which is a feature of asymmetric cryptography. Essentially, it’s the same type of cryptography that’s used to protect your bitcoin wallet.

I know how many people are curious about pseudo-top level domain names. As it says above, ZeroNet sites use the .bit domain, and there are quite a few out there. (But sorry, no .clos, .loky, .lll, or .rdos sites.) Aw, crap!

If you’d like to see a ZeroNet site, here’s one:

zeronet_links

And here’s another:

dydx_zeronet

Like the sites on Tor, I2P, and other networks, they don’t look all that fascinating. Many contain a lot of technical and coding information. It doesn’t surprise me, actually; I wasn’t expecting to find anything dark and secret on ZeroNet that I couldn’t find elsewhere.

Anyhow, this is going to be a short post, as I still have to explore ZeroNet quite a bit more. I just wanted to give you a little taste! I encourage other people to join it, because some of the forums and things seem a bit empty!

Thanks for reading – join me again, anonymity lovers!

P.S. For further reading, here’s a ZeroNet FAQ.

Darkfox: Access the Dark Web with Ease!

darkfox

NOTE: Darkfox will not help you access .clos, .rdos, .lll, or .loky domains. Those don’t exist!! It will help you access .onion, .I2P, and 127.0.0.1:8888 URIs.

by Ciphas

This may sound like an infomercial, but I swear it’s not.

Those of you who use darknets, in particular Tor, I2P, and Freenet, might have noticed that it can sometimes be inconvenient to have to run each one in a separate browser, or at least have to launch the programs separately.

Well, I found a program that makes it simpler to connect to any of these three networks with a simple command: it’s called Darkfox Launcher.

Its advantage is that it lets you access Tor, I2P, or Freenet without having to change your configurations every time. Plus, it’s very simple to use.

The GitHub page goes into a little more detail, but one of the most important questions it answers is: “How does Darkfox Launcher work?”

Here’s the answer: “Darkfox Launcher works by first changing the default profile of the Firefox Portable software and with that, changing the default network configuration. Once this phase is done, Darkfox will proceed by launching the Darknet proxy software to make the connection to the Darknet chosen by the user. When completed, Firefox Portable will boot to the default startpage of that specific Darknet.”

Darkfox is also a convenient way of quickly accessing one of these networks if, say, you need to contact someone through the network and don’t want to go through the process of installing, for example, I2P.

Included in its software package are these things: Firefox Portable Edition, and the proxy software from the Tor Project, the Invisible Internet Project (I2P), and the Freenet Project. If you’re unfamiliar with each of these, it might help to check them out individually first!

So what’s my opinion? I’ve been using it for a little while now, and while it does have a few bugs, I love it. (Besides, what software doesn’t have bugs, especially in the early stages?)

And you may have noticed that, since it’s on GitHub, Darkfox Launcher is also open source. To that end, if you want to fork it and contribute to the code, feel free.

Now, its downside is that it isn’t as secure as the actual Tor browser. So, if you’re doing some kind of hardcore whistleblowing, or engaging in illicit activities, I don’t recommend Darkfox for you. It’s still a work-in-progress, though, so future versions will probably have improved security features.

On a side note, this may just be nostalgia, but its UI reminds me of both the DOS command prompt and the Bash Unix shell. *Nerding out*

While it may not be about bells and whistles, I think Darkfox Launcher accomplishes its purpose well. For more information about it, check out the Darkfox Read Me: https://github.com/blacklight447/Darkfox-Launcher/blob/master/README.md.

If that’s not enough, take a look at its source code here: https://github.com/blacklight447/Darkfox-Launcher/blob/master/darkfox%20code

darkfox_sourcecode

Who knows? Perhaps in the future, it will have the ability to launch Tor and do your taxes.